Making Progress on Improving Underride Guards: Just in Time for Someone Else

gertie 2947

This last year, Jerry wrote to numerous trailer manufacturing companies asking them to voluntarily step up their underride guard standards. We got some positive response and stirred up interest in companies to which he also wrote who purchase trailers–enlightening them as well. One of the manufacturers, Great Dane, invited us to tour their Research & Design Center on June 25.

Afterwards, I posted this: http://annaleahmary.com/2014/06/underride-guards-can-we-sit-down-at-the-table-together-and-work-this-out/ with this video: http://youtu.be/xY6mp3PWKTA  to summarize what I saw as the frustrating lack of progress on improving underride guards and the seeming lack of communication among the various responsible parties with the authority to do something about it.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones frustrated with the inaction on what seems to be a drastically-needed change. Earlier this year, when we took the petitions to DC in May, we had met with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At that time, they put it like this: It is safer to run into a brick wall than into the back of a truck. Yet, seemingly, nothing was being done about it.

Over the course of time, in communications with IIHS, it had finally become clear to me just why that statement is true and why it didn’t seem to be understood by some in the trucking industry. I had read last fall, in a newscast which quoted Jeff Sims from the TTMA, that some thought that “too rigid” guards might cause more of a problem. (http://www.theindychannel.com/news/call-6-investigators/underride-guards-metal-barriers-on-back-of-large-trucks-often-fail-to-protect-drivers ) That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially considering our accident in which Caleb and I survived and AnnaLeah and Mary did not due to underride.

It turns out that, when the current federal standards were going through the lengthy process of being developed, there was some discussion that there might be a chance that the guards could be “too rigid”–so that strength had to be balanced with energy absorption. But, since then, technology has been developed to create “crush zones” in cars–effectively protecting the occupants in a crash, but not so effectively if  underride occurs because then the crash technology is not allowed to do its thing.

What I found interesting, this morning, was that when I researched the history of airbags (part of that crash technology: http://web.bryant.edu/~ehu/h364proj/sprg_97/dirksen/airbags.html ), I discovered that they were first required to be installed starting in 1998the very year that the current federal underride guard standards were required to be implemented (see the history of federal rulemaking on underride guards: http://tinyurl.com/phlaqon ). In effect, those underride guard standards were obsolete/ineffective/out-of-date as soon as they were implemented–only apparently no one was even aware of that unfortunate situation.

Happily, NHTSA has now acknowledged that they agree with us that the rear guards need to be improved, and, on top of that, IIHS told us that 5 out of the 7 companies which failed their 2013 narrow overlap test are in various stages of redesigning their guard. I sure hope that, even now, engineers across the world are wracking their brains and communicating with one another to come up with the best possible protection for us all. Could be we are getting somewhere with this problem…

Too late for AnnaLeah and Mary, but maybe just in time for someone else.

gertie 2946

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